Cruzing for a Lecture: Feinstein on Guns

Photograph by Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 24, 2013, to introduce legislation on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Ted Cruz, the first-year Republican senator from Texas who has taken on some senior lawmakers in rhetorical fisticuffs during his debut on Capitol Hill, ran into one contender today who showed little patience for his brashness.

Cruz put a question to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic senior senator from California and former mayor of San Francisco who witnessed bloodshed in her own tenure at City Hall and is pushing a ban on assault weapons and mega-sized ammunition clips in the aftermath of the shootings of 20 schoolchildren in Newtown, Connecticut, with a Bushmaster.

“The right of the people” to keep and bear arms, Cruz said, is a term of art in the Second Amendment that is sounded in the First Amendment as well.

“The question that I would pose to the senior senator from California is, would she deem it consistent with the Bill of Rights for Congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment in the context of the First or Fourth Amendment,” Cruz said.

“Namely, would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights? Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures could properly apply only to the following specified individuals and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?”

“I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein replied. “Senator, I’ve been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I’ve looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. I’ve seen the bullets that implode. In Sandy Hook, youngsters were dismembered.”

“Look, there are other weapons” that people can purchase, she said. “I’m not a lawyer, but after 20 years I’ve been up close and personal to the Constitution. I have great respect for it. This doesn’t mean that weapons of war and the (Supreme Court’s) Heller decision clearly points out three exceptions, two of which are pertinent here.”

“And so I — you know, it’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution,” she said. “I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here for a long time. I’ve passed on a number of bills. I’ve studied the Constitution myself. I am reasonably well educated, and I thank you for the lecture.”

The bill, she said, specifies more than 100 banned weapons — yet it exempts more than 2,000 weapons.

“Isn’t that enough for the people of the United States?” she asked. “Do they need a bazooka?.. I come from a different place than you do.”

“I would note she chose not to answer my question,” Cruz said, pressing his luck.

“The answer is obvious — no.” Feinstein said.

The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee joined in, Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, pointing out to Cruz that, in his home state of Texas, the state Board of Education “tells people which books they can and cannot read.”

The ban on assault weapons and clips with more than 10 rounds of ammo passed the committee by a vote of 10-8 along party lines, only Democrats backing it.

President Barack Obama congratulated the committee:  “ These weapons of war, when combined with high-capacity magazines, have one purpose: to inflict maximum damage as quickly as possible.  They are designed for the battlefield, and they have no place on our streets, in our schools, or threatening our law enforcement officers. ”

The ban is likely to die in the full Senate.


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